Archive for January 16th, 2016|Daily archive page

The Berlin trilogy: Day 1 in Bowie’s Berlin

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Fortuitous timing – a week to the day after the surprise announcement of David Bowie’s passing I happen to be in Berlin. Where better to conclude a week of reflection on his music and life. I haven’t listened to anything else all week. Yesterday I picked up vinyl copies of Young Americans and Pin-ups at Alan’s, round the corner from my house. Today I flew into Tegel listening to Low and Station to Station, downloaded onto my phone in a somewhat torturous way over Heathrow wifi from Spotify because I left my iPod charging in the bedroom (we always leave one thing behind on every trip no?). From the vinyl frontier to the virtual meanderings of Spotify Bowie music is as resonant as ever.

I got a text at the airport from Thilo Schmied, ex-Hansa engineer and the main man for Bowie tours in Berlin, saying it was a long shot being able to do a Bowie walking tour tomorrow, my one free full day in the city. No worries really because I’ve done my research and reckon I can do a half-decent tour for myself if needs be. I’ll start from Hauptstrasse 155, Bowie’s old apartment with Iggy Pop. If I end up having to Do It Myself I’ll publish the tour here afterwards to help others stuck in similar circumstances. I bought myself a city map in WH Smith so I can plot the key Bowie landmarks on it.

Once installed in The Circus Hotel in Mitte late afternoon, I headed out for a wander. First stop, a T-shirt shop round the corner I remembered from my trip here last winter. A cool Bowie Berlin T on offer with an image from The Man Who Fell to Earth period and the words Berlin Friendship. Aladdin Sane playing when I walked in. A few doors down another fun clothes shop. Wild is the Wind playing when I walked in. Last night Thilo was at a huge memorial gathering at the Hansa studios with over two thousand people.

On the sombre day that was last Monday 11th the German Foreign office thanked Bowie on Twitter for helping bring down the Wall.

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This city takes its Bowie seriously and for good reason.

When Bowie played his landmark gig in front of the Reichstag in June 1987 he introduced his Berlin classic ‘Heroes’, recorded a decade earlier in the city, thus: “We send our wishes to all our friends who are on the other side of the wall.” Those friends could make out the sounds of the song from the other side and their cheering could be heard this side.

“It was one of the most emotional performances I’ve ever done. I was in tears.”

Bowie recalled the show in these terms: “We kind of heard that a few of the East Berliners might actually get the chance to hear the thing, but we didn’t realise in what numbers they would. And there were thousands on the other side that had come close to the Wall. So it was like a double concert where the Wall was the division. And we would hear them cheering and singing along from the other side. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart. I’d never done anything like that in my life, and I guess I never will again.”

So Bowie and Berlin are intimately linked and the city is a perfect place to celebrate and be thankful for this, in the words of a certain JeSuisDean (derived from elsewhere in relation to other persons):

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An old badge of mine from 1978 accompanying me on this trip

 

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